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Animals compete in looks, behavior at county fair

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Cows, chickens, ducks and goats were on parade Wednesday at the Jefferson County Fair.

The dairy cow and poultry shows started early. As 4-H members lined their dairy cattle up and led them in a circle under a shady tent, many of them struggled when the cows became stubborn. Some cows refused to budge, while others bellowed and yanked their owners around.

However, 7-year-old Libby G. Sutton from Florida led 500-pound heifer Bubble with ease during the Clover showmanship division. The Clover competitors, the youngest in the 4-H Club, all received a patriotic ribbon and a giant Willy Wonka-esque lollipop rather than be formally placed.

Libby had no secrets to training Bubble.

“I just got to practice with him yesterday,” she said.

She owns two of her own cows, each about 1,500 pounds, at home. She borrowed a cow from her aunt so she could show at the fair while visiting her grandmother this year.

“She shows tomorrow and shows Saturday,” said grandmother Sharon S. Littlefield, Watertown. “All three of my grandchildren are showing today.”

For the dairy showmanship event, Libby had to clip, wash and brush the cow to get it into pristine show condition. Lisa P. Porter, leader of the Jefferson County 4-H Dairy Club, said showmanship is “the great equalizer.”

“Not every child can afford to have an expensive registered animal,” she said. “Hard work really matters in showmanship. Everyone gets a chance if they put forth their best effort.”

Effort means practicing with the cleaned and clipped animal to make sure it behaves during the competition.

This is opposed to the conformation show, which Corey M. Hayes, agriculture business management educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, calls “a supermodel show for cows.”

Cows are judged on how close they appear to the ideal.

“She is like a healthy woman,” Ms. Porter said. “She’s tall, lean, physically fit and feminine. If they are lean and fit, they are better able to provide milk.”

Showmanship is important in other animal shows as well. Under the green and white poultry tent, Mr. Hayes said, the 70 breeds and 200 varieties of birds will be judged based on cleanliness and health.

“We love our animals, so we want to make sure they are fed properly,” he said.

Competitors also are judged on animal knowledge. Poultry judge Paul D. Kroll, Buffalo, quizzed each animal owner on bird parts and how to get the bird out of the cage. Julianna E. Monaghan, 11, was getting ready to do the showmanship part of the competition as her mother, Kathy F. Monaghan, looked on.

“When she was 4, she begged for chickens,” Mrs. Monaghan said. “She has to buy all her own chickens. Her dad won’t be buying any for her.”

Brandon T. Phelps, 10, has been handling chickens for only two years, but he was an expert at getting his birds out of the cage. He slipped one hand over the back, then guided the bird’s head out of the cage door.

“When you first grab them, you have to go fast so they don’t get around you,” he said. “I gave them half an apple so they’re not grumpy for food.”

More than competition, however, the fair contests are about bringing together the community and learning, Ms. Porter said.

“People support each other and obviously care about each other,” she said.




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